I thought it would be interesting to share a glimpse into our Online Atelier Mentorship Program. This is an example of a student’s recent post to our Atelier Feedback Forum, and my response to her. Joy Lemon is an advanced student who has progressed through all my Classical Drawing with Graphite and Charcoal courses, my Intro to Oil Painting and Mastering Value and Color courses, and is now working through the first Indirect Painting course. Joy has been enrolled in the program, submitting course work weekly, since June 2020.
Another color layer was added, done in three multi hour sessions over two days.
I oiled out initially and intended to do the full layer (or a majority of it) and ended up doing it separately which did not work well with the oiling out as it dried over the areas that were done on the second day and application became difficult (I should not have done that!).
From now on I will just oil out a portion of it that I hope to get to in that session. Would I still wait a day(s) in between for it to fully dry before oiling out a nearby area to paint?
I was also wondering: on subsequent layers of color, I don’t necessarily need to cover every area fully with paint, right?
Do I focus on what areas need work as I move across the painting and leave what looks ok alone? Can the layer even be super light [transparent] in certain areas as long as I use medium (i.e.-the “tarnish” on the bowl’s exterior)?
For the next, and possibly last pass of color I think the area of the highlight on the cloth and what’s around it needs to be tackled again-that glow is so difficult to emulate-any recommendations? And maybe one last look at the base of the bowl, though I have completely lost the ellipsis and even the outer edges…augh! What else could be done that you see? And what do you think so far of my application, color, values, over all look?
Beautiful work! I only have a couple small suggestions, then I think it’s done!
But first, to answer your questions:
It’s common to oil out a large area, or the whole painting, and then find at the end of the painting session that you did not paint into all those oiled areas. When that happens, just slightly moisten a makeup sponge with odorless mineral spirits, and wipe off the oil from the areas you did not paint into, at the end of the painting day, before the oil sets. The OMS-wiped areas will be dry and ready to re-oil the next day.
Applying paint in later layers:
Correct, you will find don’t need to re-paint everything with every layer, especially with later layers. Some objects and textures will need a lot of layers, some areas will only need a few.
Transparency in later layers:
Yes, you will find that in later layers you are only making very small adjustments to correct hue and value, so often you only need a very thin, transparent application of the paint to nudge the hue and color.
As for my specific notes for your painting:
In a few areas, your darkest darks have some texture that is catching small glimmers of light as they touch the tiny peaks of black paint. These little glimmers make the dark areas jump forward, instead of pushing back. In general, you want any texture to be in the lights only, not not in the darks. Don’t worry about it for this painting, but in future paintings you will want to avoid this, by painting thinly in the darks, and also sanding down those ridges, bumps, and lint specks when the paint has dried.
You have done a great job keeping all your edges soft and fused throughout the process. But now is the time you get to sharpen! The front edge of the bowl lip (and NOT the back edge) is a great place to sharpen up that edge and make it as crisp as possible. I’d also apply a tiny line or a few dots of pure white paint on the highlight of that front edge, to really help it pop.
Allow that back edge to remain soft, which will keep it receding back into the picture plane, where it belongs – this tiny bit of atmospheric perspective (sharp details at the main focal point, softer in the distance) – really adds enormous dimension to your painting, it makes it feel almost like a landscape painting. It adds the drama that really draws people in, and makes them say “I didn’t ever think I liked still life, but I like yours!”.
I don’t think the ellipse is a problem – it really looks fine to me! It’s a tricky shape because it’s overlapped slightly by the drapery. But I think the value is a bit dark. Remember how the egg [the primary exercise in the Mastering Value and Color course, which Joy completed] had a lost edge on the underside, where it reflected the cloth it was sitting on so well that they were nearly the same value and hue? That’s what is happening here – the reflective plane right where it touches the cloth is reflecting the cloth, so it should be almost the same value and hue as the cloth. I also think you could lighten the very center of that highlight with a tiny dabs or two of pure white paint. You can even “spackle” it on, at a microscopic level, because it’s a highlight on your main subject.
Final layer of “patina” on the front surface of the bowl:
I think you will find you can achieve a lot with one more translucent layer, copying what you see of the ragged, spotted, surface patina of tarnish. You can even make some of these details have sharp, crisp edges. They will be low-contrast edges, so they won’t jump forward too much even if you make them sharp.
As for the glow on the drapery above, I think it looks fine, and I don’t think another layer of paint will enhance it – if anything another layer will just create more thickness and texture, which you don’t want there. You also want to keep in in a secondary role – as pretty and interesting as it is, it needs to stay subservient to the bowl, and it’s doing that now, while still looking like it’s had enough care and attention. So I’d leave it the way it is.
For your next setup, have you considered doing a direct painting? You might want to set up just a single interesting object and try the “Glazing and Scumbling” course (the first one, with the seashell). I think you would enjoy that process. And having learned what you did with this first indirect painting, and the Mastering Value and Color course, you will see how efficient the glazing and scumbling technique can be for achieving realism with fewer layers, and really pushing and pulling the depth of the paint more than Indirect allows.
Let me know your thoughts,
Joy Lemon is a member of our Atelier Feedback mentorship program.
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